A mural depicting Calexico scenes is shown on the wall outside the now-closed Calexico Chamber of Commerce offices at the northwest corner of Highway 111 and Highway 98. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

Calexico Council Talks Chamber, Cordova Park, ‘For Sale’ Cars

CALEXICO — Over 15 years, in both financially fatter and lean times, the city of Calexico has contributed nearly $851,000 to the now-dormant Calexico Chamber of Commerce, which closed its doors at the onset of the pandemic.

This figure was just a snapshot into the city-chamber dynamic presented to the City Council on Wednesday, April 7, in a brief report by City Manager Miguel Figueroa, a seemingly mini-version of what been requested in early February.

Figueroa’s report comes at a time when efforts continue by the Calexico chamber board to reconstitute and reopen the nonprofit organization, which is also without a manager after the retirement of its longtime executive, Hildy Carrillo.

The now-closed Calexico Chamber of Commerce offices at the northwest corner of Highway 111 and Highway 98 is shown recently. Chamber officials are working to reopen the dormant organization, while some city officials think the city should play an active role in the chamber’s resurgence. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

“We, as a city, are open to all of these efforts out there to promote business in the city,” Figueroa told the council, repeating the message he has sent to the chamber representatives he met with on several occasions.

Although no City Council action was tied to the presentation, the council did request an additional report on the chamber at an upcoming meeting and made several other decisions on April 7, including approving the purchase of restrooms at Adrian C. Cordova Memorial Park and an ordinance to address the proliferation of “for sale” vehicles.

Status Report on Chamber

During Figueroa’s city manager report, without providing much context into the data he would share, Figueroa relayed to the council he had been present at several meetings of the chamber board, which had been using council chambers to gather and discuss reopening efforts.

All Figueroa would say at the onset of his report is that the chamber is continuing to meet and “they’ve met with other entities,” but he didn’t say what that meant.

Calls to a couple of chamber officials were not returned as of the publication of this story.

Sharing a few facts with the council, Figueroa said that between fiscal 2005-2006 and fiscal 2010-2011, the city’s now-defunct Redevelopment Agency had inked six agreements with the Calexico chamber that resulted in what was apparently some $337,000 in redevelopment dollars going to the chamber.

Those direct payments ended when the state dissolved redevelopment agencies with the passage of Assembly Bill 26 on Feb. 1, 2012. Before that, cities with established redevelopment zones had portions of their property taxes redirected back to cities from the state to address blighted areas.

Figueroa then revealed that $850,755.13 had been paid out in some form to the Calexico Chamber of Commerce between July 1, 2005, and Dec. 9, 2019. In addition to the six RDA-funded agreements, the total included membership fees, sponsorships of events, monthly allocations, and asset forfeiture funding that went to the chamber.

Without a clear connection to the next set of statistics, other than the obvious context of business retention and attraction, Figueroa stated that between January 2020 and March 29, 2021, the city of Calexico had lost 153 businesses, which were tied to business licenses not renewed. Some 109 were Calexico-based business and 44 were businesses that were located outside city limits but connected to Calexico.

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Downtown Calexico is shown several days into the complete shutdown that occurred in late March 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Imperial County. | FILE PHOTO

As of April 7, the city had 1,382 active business licenses.

Figueroa also told the council he had met separately in recent weeks with Jesus “Jesse” Gallardo, a downtown merchant who had formed what he has named the Calexico Independent Chamber of Commerce.

Figueroa has told the Calexico Chronicle in the past that it is not necessarily the city’s place to insert itself in chamber business, but that the city is supportive of chamber efforts. He told the council on April 7 that the city should be a “conduit” between the chamber and the business community.

The report was first requested during the Feb. 3 City Council meeting, when during a lengthy council member report from Raul Ureña, he asserted that the city should provide direction and assistance to the chamber.

At the time, Ureña had made the statement that the chamber should “diversify and modernize” to meet the needs of the business community during this pandemic. He thought it should be a modern chamber’s role to help new businesses with their regulatory processes and educate business owners, among other functions.

At a different point in the April 7 meeting, City Council member Camilo Garcia circled back to Figueroa’s report, keying in on the fact that 153 businesses had closed in just over a year.

Garcia asked that the city manager bring back a list of those businesses in an effort to assist those affected by the closure, namely the employees who lost jobs.

Maybe the city could help “retrain, retool our workforce,” Garcia said.

The report on the chamber and the announcement of businesses that have closed comes at a point when Imperial County has moved to the Orange Tier of the state’s economic recovery roadmap, meaning more business sectors can open their doors.

Further, most pandemic-related restrictions in the state will be lifted by mid-June, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on April 6.

Council member Gloria Romo, at the end of the meeting, asked that the chamber issue be brought back at a future meeting.

Cordova Park Gets its Restrooms

A holdover from its Feb. 17 meeting, the Calexico Council unanimously voted to purchase pre-fabricated restrooms for Adrian C. Cordova Memorial Park at a cost of $303,901.37 using proceeds paid by homeowners in the area from the Bravo-Rodiles subdivision community facilities district.

A community facilities district is established for new housing subdivisions to pay for infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, and parks facilities through annual property tax assessments paid by those living within the subdivision boundaries.

A photo from Romtec Inc. shows a version of the model of pre-fabricated restrooms purchased on Wednesday, April 7, by the Calexico City Council for Adrian C. Cordova Memorial Park. | COURTESY PHOTO

Cordova Park, which is just south of Highway 98 on the eastern edge of town, is being developed in phases as the funding on certain portions becomes available. The restrooms chosen by the council were the most extensive of three options offered based on the needs of the park, which will have three baseball fields, one soccer field, and one basketball court.

The restrooms, which are a pre-fab 25-foot-by-23-foot unit from a company called Romtec Inc. out of Roseburg, Oregon, include a storage area, a room for the plumbing works, a concrete pathway, four toilets and two sinks on the women’s side and two toilets, two urinals and two sinks on the men’s side.

The park itself is bordered on the north by Meadows Drive, on the west by Clinton Avenue, on the east by homes in the subdivision, and on the south side by East Zapata Street, where the restroom units will be located.

Ordinance on ‘For Sale’ Vehicles Passed

The City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that amends the municipal code and gives the city’s code enforcement officers “teeth” in dealing with the proliferation of vehicles parked around the city with “for sale” signs.

COURTESY PHOTO

“We have received numerous calls for a long time as it pertains to for sale vehicles located on commercial areas (and) high-traffic residential areas,” Figueroa said. “They take up valuable space for people who live there or have visitors.”

The ordinance, which still must go through a second approval at the next meeting and be on the books for 30 days after that, will allow for a mechanism where code enforcement officers can issue warnings and citations.

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